ASiEL is the freshest and most original artist in the Colorado music scene. He is also a brilliant out-gay rapper. His profound lyrics pour over the edge of anything you’ve ever heard before. Yes, ASiEL’s lyrics are obscene. But they are obscene with a purpose. ASiEL uses his quick and calculated poetry to attain a single goal: freedom. Freedom for all LGBT people – his brothers and sisters.
Rap has been fundamental in the evolution of black identity. You use words like “fag” in your lyrics – are you intentionally using your music to reclaim or redefine queer identity?
Absolutely. I think the main reason why I am so “shock value” as far as the lyrics go, is that I want to desensitize people toward the LGBT communities. Hopefully, as time goes on, my younger gay brothers and sisters will be able to be free. And when I say ‘brothers and sisters,’ I mean people on Earth. So yeah, I do intentionally, when I say, or do something that’s normally derogatory, I want to reclaim that and put a different outlook on that.
How would you redefine the word “fag”?
[Pause] As far as the definition, I feel like once a word is out and it has a meaning, then it’s done. There’s no way we’ll ever be able to redefine it. If somebody is going to use it in a negative way, it will always be a derogatory term. If gay friendly people are going to use a (derogatory) word, it might just show people who try to use it for something negative that we’re beyond that time, and we’re not going to downgrade ourselves to that term anymore. So it’s just like, as you said, taking the power back, and letting people know that just because you’re gay and people might call you fag – we’re still human. I’m a man first before everything.
You’ve performed with other out-gay rappers, such as Cazwell. I saw pieces of your performance during Denver Pride, along with Cazwell’s. Your performance was excellent, very animated and lively. How is your music unique in the LGBT community alongside rappers like Cazwell, or among other genres, with musicians like Scissor Sisters or Lady Gaga?
As far as in the rap community, I think ASiEL will stand out because it’s real hip-hop and real rap. Not saying other gay rappers are not real, I just think that most gay rappers that are signed already – there’s a limit on them. And when I say, “limit,” I mean they’re not as able to be as gay as they want to be. I think that in the industry there’s this invisible line that says, “you can be gay, you just can’t be too gay.” With ASiEL, I’m constantly crossing over that line, working independently. I do that on purpose so that I can have creative control without compromising. So I stand out because it’s real hip-hop and it’s real rap. It just happens to be by a gay artist.
How does your music stand apart from the typical straight, mainstream rap scene?
For so long, straight people have run the rap industry. I mean they let gay people rap, but they’ll never let a gay person be on top of the industry. So I feel like we have a very, very long way to go as far as becoming “the real rapper” and not just “that gay dude that’s rapping.” Which, that’s what I am. I feel like straight people are giving negative comments. It’s mostly hip-hop fans, the ones that were so used to listening to rap, and are used to it being such a predominately straight industry. So I get negative feedback from straight people who are hip-hop and rap fans. But the gay community has been totally supportive and really appreciative of what I put out there.
That goes into my next question: what kind of audience do you think listens to your music?
So far it’s been gay, straight, in the United States, out of the United States, so it’s really just pockets everywhere, which is great for my demo (album). Even though some of my lyrics are pretty racy, there are a couple of tracks that could be for somebody that doesn’t necessarily want to hear that. My main goal is to make people dance. Dance is beyond gender, beyond orientation, beyond anything.
Out-gay artists, such as Cazwell, use tactics like humor to broaden their appeal to listeners who would not typically listen to homoerotic music. Do you reach out to a broader audience with your music? Particularly the straight community?
I’m not comparing myself to any artist, because I really do enjoy Cazwell’s work. I’ve been a big fan of his for years. But I do think that gay rappers who are represented by management are “tongue and cheek.” It can be very cliché in some of their videos, and performances. I intentionally don’t do that. When I create something, I don’t use comedy at all. I want people to know that I really rap. This is what I grew up doing. So I would never use comedy to gain a straight following.
Do you feel like that weakens or strengthens your music?
It depends on how you look at it. From one perspective, I can see why someone would think using comedy would strengthen their music, because they’re gaining all these fans. But I think it weakens you, because you’re losing your real self as an artist, and being real is really what you’re trying to do. So if you’re choosing to make something more “tongue and cheek,” or comedic, just to cross over, then you’re losing yourself with that.
You’re working on all new material for your debut album. Can you give us clues on what to expect? And when it might be released?
Absolutely. Something I’m really excited about is that I use a live band. In hip-hop, there are very few bands that do that. You hardly ever see a rapper with a live band. I’m in the studio creating music with real instruments, as well as digital instruments. So we’re incorporating a very dancy, cyber sound with authentic instruments to create something fresh. As far as the release date, I would like to release my album on August 12, which is my birthday. I’m trying to create this new genre, which is “hip-pop.” It’s like hip-hop in terms of the beats, but I implement the pop element, which is much more dancy with its’ choreography, hair, costumes … You know, you hardly ever see straight rappers dancing in their videos. So I want it to be music that feels good, but it’s also something very cool visually to experience. I’ve been dancing for more than 10 years now.
Is there anything you would like to say to the gay community?
I first want to say thank you. In Denver, as far as PrideFest, they were so supportive. I got such positive feedback from them. One of my main things with ASiEL, and this project, is to show that there are many, many different ways to be gay, and however you are gay is OK. Straight people tend to think that we all fit in one category, and that they can define all gays the same way. So I’m hoping to show gay people that we don’t have to fit into a specific type of gay. Just be exactly who you are. You should own it. l